New series of authorities on step-parent adoption and bias/flaws in expert reports.

21 Feb 2017

Stephen Barlet-Jones has recently been involved in an interesting judgement. It was the third in a series of 3 reported judgements in the same case dealing with step-parent adoption and bias in court reporters. The case was actually handed down in July of last year, but has only just been published following a hearing last week.

1. Court of Appeal: Re S (A Child) (Adoption and Contact Applications: Representation of Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 649; [2016] 2 F.L.R. 81; [2015] Fam. Law 1041(attached)

2. Court of Appeal: Re S (A Child) (Adoption: Annex A Report) [2015] EWCA Civ 1345; [2016] Fam. Law 273 (attached)

3. Central Family Court: Re S (A Child) (Adoption: Time with Father) [2016 EWFC B112 (Bailii Link: )

Stephen took the case over after a judge had granted an adoption order and an order for no contact in 2015. After two appeals and a retrial, the court refused the adoption order and made an order for contact despite a CAFCASS officer, social worker and Guardian all making recommendations in favour of adoption and against contact. The court found that “adoption order would legitimise an approach which saw the father removed from S’s life”.

The three cases deal with a mother, herself a qualified social worker, who made false allegations against an innocent father (including sexual abuse), disengagement with court proceedings for some 4 years, changed the child’s name without the father’s permission, and influenced the child against wanting contact. Court delays had led to a further 3 years of no contact.

In the earlier hearings, the Court of Appeal had found that, because the author of the Annex A report was a colleague of the Mother, the original Annex A report was fundamentally flawed and should have been removed from the bundle and no further reference should be made to it. It had also set out how concerns of bias or fundamental flaws in expert assessments should be dealt with a preliminary hearings, and had criticised the first instance judge for discharging the child as a party, and thus removing the crucial protection of a Guardian to represent his interests in court.

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