Name of case (citation): Re C (Interim threshold not crossed)  EWFC B5
Link to the judgment: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2019/B5.html
Hearing – 13, 15 and 15 February 2019.
Judgment –15 February 2019.
Case summary: Interim care order threshold not crossed.
This case concerns C who is six and a half years old. C has lived nearly all his life with his maternal grandparents under a Child Arrangement Order.
C’s cousin, D, was admitted to hospital on 8 October 2018 with double fractures to both legs. D is a baby and there is concern that D’s injuries were inflicted upon D by an adult. The maternal grandmother is placed in the pool of perpetrators.
On 8 October 2018, the police advised the local authority that C should be removed from the care of his maternal grandmother. The local authority applied for an interim care order with a plan that C would be removed from the care of his maternal grandparents.
The information known about the maternal grandparents is as follows:
- The maternal grandparents had very regular or extensive contact with D.
- It is alleged that the maternal grandmother visited D’s home on 5 October 2018 to collect E (D's brother) and saw D sat happily in her high chair. However, there is also a suggestion that the maternal grandmother had seen D the day before D’s admission to hospital, on 7 October 2018.
- The maternal grandmother has been interviewed by the police and is no longer a suspect in relation to D’s injuries.
- The extended family is reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of the injuries being inflicted non-accidentally.
- It is alleged that the presentation of the maternal grandmother at the Emergency Protective Order (EPO) hearing was ‘extremely alarming’.
- It is suggested that the maternal grandparents have been unable to work openly and honestly with professionals.
- The social worker has expressed concern that there is an extensive pattern of high-risk domestically abusive relationships within the maternal family.
Implications for practice:
Link to judgment: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2015/11.html
The judge considered this case to be aligned with the case of Re A. Re A is described by the President of the Family Division as ‘a textbook of how not to embark upon and pursue a care case’.
The Re A case emphasised the need to link the facts relied upon by the local authority with its case on threshold: "an important element of the local authority’s case was that the father 'lacks honesty with professionals', 'minimises matters of importance' and 'is immature and lacks insight on issues of importance'. Maybe, but how does this feed through into a conclusion that A is at risk of neglect? The conclusion does not follow naturally from the premise."
Need for a causal link
In this case, the judge considered that a lack of acceptance around the severity of D’s injuries and the need of local authority involvement is, if proved, a valid concern. But is not, on its own, sufficient to stand as an explanation that C is at ‘immediate risk of significant harm’ from his grandparents.
Similarly, the maternal grandmother’s alleged behaviour at the EPO hearing, the suggestion that the maternal grandparents have been unable to work openly and honestly with professionals, and the social worker’s concern surrounding maternal domestic abuse, do not explain why C is at immediate risk of significant harm from his grandparents. There was no suggestion that C had ever been exposed to domestic abuse.
The judge stated that there had been an inadequate formulation of the nature of the risk that each of the grandparents is said to present to C. As a result there has been inadequate consideration as to how these risks might be contained so as to enable C to continue to be cared for by his grandparents.
Returning to Re A: "the local authority must both prove the 'thing' and establish that it has the significance attributed to it by the local authority".