Crane & Staples act Pro Bono in a Court of Appeal Children Case

Children Lawyer Sian Churchill summarises her most recent reported case, where Crane & Staples acted pro bono in the Court of Appeal.

Case Background

I represent a father in a very complicated public law care case, which was recently heard in the Court of Appeal. My client is referred to in the Judgment as F3. All cases about children must be kept anonymous so the parents’ names and the children’s names are redacted in the Judgment.

The appeal was applied for by the mother of the children, who is my client’s partner. The final hearing had concluded very lengthy proceedings, and endorsed the local authority’s care plan of a final care order and removal of the three oldest children living at the family home.

The Court of Appeal had allowed a stay of the final order, meaning that the children’s removal from the family home was not enforced until the outcome of the Court of Appeal case was known.

My client supported the appeal and we added additional points to the mother’s appeal. Both we and Counsel for our client, Emily Beer, acted pro bono in the appeal.

There was no question whether the Judge in the final hearing correctly directed himself. By that we mean that he considered and applied the correct statute and case law. The appeal was more nuanced.

The Appeal

The appeal essentially came down to two points/grounds, although they were expanded on greatly by the advocates. These were:-

  1. That the court who heard the final hearing fell into error by relying on the flawed analysis of the expert psychiatrist to the extent it did. Consequently, the court was wrong to rely on the evidence of the social workers and Children’s Guardian that placed so much weight upon that same evidence.
  2. The court did not properly consider the current risks to the children and its orders are disproportionate to the risks the children currently face.

The Court of Appeal felt that the appeal was strongest under the second ground of appeal.

The second ground was the one especially focussed on, and it was strongly argued that the plan for the separation of each child would be particularly taxing for the children, with each of them worrying about the other, and about their parents. It was argued that the remedy of the risk the children faced by remaining in the family home did not justify the need for removal.  

The Court of Appeal case was heard by three Judges and majority rules, meaning that two judges have to allow the appeal for it to succeed. In our case, all judges said it was a complex and difficult case to decide on, and one Judge would have allowed the appeal but the other two dismissed the appeal, meaning it was not successful.

The full Court of Appeal Judgment can be read here:- https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2021/1451.html

Next Steps

The children are currently still with my client and the Mother. She has issued an application for permission to appeal at the Supreme Court, which is the highest Court in England and Wales. This is supported by my client and we have submitted further grounds of appeal on his behalf. The Supreme Court have granted a stay pending permission, which means that the children will not be removed until the Court has considered the application for permission to appeal and, hopefully, the appeal after.