WALES/ENGLAND – Court endorses guidance for local authorities where one parent murders the other

Theis J stresses the need for urgency and judicial continuity


Mrs Justice Theis has endorsed the guidance given by Mrs Justice Hogg, in Re A and B [2010] EWHC 3824 (Fam), in cases where one parent murders the other. In N v B [2013] EWHC 820 Fam) at para 35 Theis J reiterates the comments of Hogg J in the earlier case where she said:

“The local authority should give immediate consideration to the issue of proceedings and, whether it considers it appropriate or inappropriate to issue proceedings immediately, it should appoint a social worker specifically for the affected sibling group who should offer immediate practical help and keep the decision under constant review in conjunction with the local authority’s legal department.”

Theis J lamented the delay in the case being brought to a conclusion, which had been caused in the main by the local authority not having filed reports on time. She also emphasised the importance in this type of case of judicial continuity and effective case management, something which had not been achieved in this case, which had been a “shocking example of how a case got lost in the system”. The delay had been harmful to the children.

In this case the father had pleaded guilty to the murder of the mother and the rape of a maternal aunt (who was 16 years old at the time). He was sentenced in October 2010 to life in prison with a minimum term of 14 years before being eligible for release. However there was some prospect of him being able to have home visits in 2020. By that time the two children would be 16 and 11 respectively.

The maternal grandparents initially applied for residence orders. Following their separation in February 2011 the maternal grandmother applied on her own for a special guardianship order and, subsequently for an adoption order.

The father agreed to a special guardianship order but opposed an adoption order. He would also have agreed to a s.91(14) order. He sought an order for defined indirect contact with the children. The grandmother did not object to once yearly indirect contact but sought that this be recorded in a recital to the order rather than being the subject of a defined order.

Theis J found on the facts of this case, in line with the views of the local authority and guardian, that the children’s best interests would be met by an adoption order. She found in relation to contact that it was sufficient to record the grandmother’s agreement to indirect contact in a recital and that an express order would have been inappropriate.

For the full text of the judgment and the case summary of Thomas Dudley of 1 Garden Court Chambers, on which this news item is based, please click here.


SOURCE: Family Law Week

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