Local Authority v M & M & Ors: Unprecedented

Mr Justice Hedley has been rather busy. Another of his cases, Local Authority v M & M & Ors [2009] EWHC 3172, was reported yesterday and in it he took "the unprecedented step of excluding a father with parental responsibility, whose whereabouts are not unknown, from any knowledge of, let alone participation in, care proceedings involving his children".

The circumstances leading to this extraordinary decision are that the father is currently serving a prison sentence and the mother has made serious allegations of violence and threats against her and the children (including threats to kill or kidnap a child) by the father and his family. The mother is therefore trying to hide from the father and his family. The father is unaware of the care proceedings and the mother, supported by the guardian, applied for an order that the father be discharged as a party so that the proceedings continue without any involvement on his part. The local authority objected, mainly because they wished to obtain information from the father and his family and could not do so without revealing the existence of the care proceedings. Notwithstanding this, Mr Justice Hedley made the order discharging the father, although he made it clear that the order must be kept under review, particularly were the father to seek contact or were the local authority to seek to remove the children from the care of the mother.