Thursday, August 12, 2010

Warwickshire County Council v TE & Ors: Another father abandons his battle

Adopting the 'poignant descriptive words' of Munby J (as he then was) in Re D (Intractable Contact Dispute: Publicity) [2004] 1 FLR 1226, His Honour Judge Clifford Bellamy began his judgment in Warwickshire County Council v TE & Ors [2010] EWHC B19 yesterday as follows:

"On 21 July 2010 a wholly deserving father left my court in tears having been driven to abandon his battle to implement an order which I had made on 4th January 2010 that his son, S, now aged 12, should move to live with him."

So ends ligation relating to child S, which has been before the court almost continuously since June 1999.

The essential facts of the case are as follows:

1. The child S was born on 5th March 1998.

2. S's parents separated before he was born.

3. In June 1999 the father applied for and obtained contact, which eventually included staying contact.

4, The contact broke down in February 2006.

5. Over the next four years "immense energy and resources were invested in trying to reinstate a meaningful relationship between father and son", but those efforts failed.

6. The father applied for a residence order and on 4th January 2010 residence was transferred from mother to father - see S (A Child), Re [2010] EWHC 192. The court found that S had suffered emotional harm, that S had become alienated from his father and that there was a risk that the long-term consequences of alienation and estrangement from his father could be damaging to S's welfare.

7. The mother appealed and on 21st January her application for permission to appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal - Re S (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 219.

8. On the 3rd March the court ordered that the mother should take S to the father's home on 11 March, failing which the services of the Tipstaff would be engaged to implement the transfer the next day (S (A Child) [2010] EWHC B2).

9. S appealed against this decision and on 17th March his appeal was allowed – Re S (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 325. The Court of Appeal ordered that there should be an interim care order in favour of the local authority until 7 April; that S should be transferred to an identified foster placement after school the next day, on 18 March; that reintroduction of father and son should take place by face to face contact beginning the following day, 19 March; that transfer of S to his father's care should be effected by 27 March; that the mother's contact should be restricted to indirect contact by telephone; and that the matter should be listed for further directions on the 25th March.

10. S refused to engage in any attempted contact with his father and the social worker became 'most concerned for his emotional and mental health', advising the father that she 'did not believe that any further good could come with S remaining in foster care'.

11. Accordingly, at the hearing on 25th March the father agreed that S should return to his mother, though under the auspices of the interim care order.

12. Thereafter, further attempts at contact were made, but the boy continued to refuse to engage.

13. On the 13th July the father's counsel informed the court that he no longer intended to seek the implementation of the residence order made on 4th January.

14. The parents then agreed that there should be a residence order in favour of the mother; that there should be a supervision order in favour of the local authority for one year; that the father have indirect contact only and that pursuant to s.91(14) Children Act 1989 neither parent shall, without the permission of the court, make any further application in respect of the child until he has reached the age of 16. On the 21st July the court approved an order in these terms.

The reason for this judgment is set out by Judge Bellamy in paragraph 11:

"This has been an extraordinary case. The two Court of Appeal decisions attracted wide publicity. There has also been significant professional interest. Against that background I was persuaded that it would not be appropriate to end this case simply by the court approving an order agreed between the parties. In his position statement for the hearing on 21 July, Mr Vater, counsel for the local authority, made the point that the story did not end with the last hearing before the Court of Appeal. He submitted that 'before that decision or those preceding it are relied upon in other, similar cases, either by any experts for the purposes of research or lawyers in support of their cases, the full story should be recorded.' I agree. That is the purpose of this judgment."

Having set out the full story, Judge Bellamy concluded his judgment with some reflections on some of the issues that arose, including discussing the concept of alienation, dealing with a case involving an alienated child and the need for evidence from an appropriately experienced expert.

To end on a slightly more hopeful note, the judgment has as a postscript an email from the guardian describing a meeting at which S was informed of the final order. After the meeting S told the guardian 'that this was not the end and he would think about seeing his father after his GCSE's'.


  1. Trying to be positive, it is good at least to see a Judge, and a senior one at that, accepting that PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) exists. The next step must be to see if anything can be done about it.

    I think perhaps both parties being forced to attend parenting classes might work. The law gets tough on maintenance, it should on children's upbringing also, it has it's priorities wrong.

  2. It has not been reported why contact broke down in the first instance but I have seen many cases where children's reports have been ignored by the courts and the custodial parent has been accused of alienation instead. I think this case has been shocking.I think it is abusive to make an order a child doesnt want in the first place. By changing the child's living arrangements in such a way I believe the court is guilty of alienation. I hope this case end well now for the child who has been subjected to a terrible ordeal by the family courts.

  3. What an awful case! Makes me wonder what planet the guardian was on to file the appeal for the child.

    It sounds to me like the judge was fully attuned to what was going on with the child, and with the parents. I'm not sure I understand why the judge approved the agreement when the father was "wholly deserving" and obviously under enormous financial pressure (duress?) and emotionally burned out.

  4. 7.(25)
    The father should have prolonged contact, together with the stepmother,

    Ten bob says the issue is not and never was the father.

  5. This terrible case confirms Wall’s Law which says that the courts are least able to deal with those cases which most need their assistance and intervention (Lord Justice Wall, Are the courts failing fathers?, paper delivered to NAGALRO Autumn Conference, 11 October 2004).

    Whatever the failings of the mother, it is staggering that the system indulged her for 11 years.

    It also confirms the repeated criticism that the failure to monitor outcomes for children following family court intervention makes it impossible for judges to base their decisions on evidence.

    It is telling that Bellamy begins and ends his judgement with the image of a sobbing father, and that his reference to Munby’s Re D shows that nothing has changed or been learnt in the intervening 6 years.

    Utterly shameful.

  6. Nick, you are so right. The 11-year indulgence of such garbage litigation by the mom is indeed shameful. But I'm still curious about the child's appeal - who was behind it, why was it done, who condoned it, etc.? That appeal seems to have put the nail in the coffin, from what I can tell.

  7. Is The Law an Ass or those who swear to enforce it.

    PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) is a real problem yes for some fathers there is also A father in the West Midlands who has & continues to have a family Court judge completely fooled. He has continued to break every court order relating to the children having contact with their mother since January 2009 up to the latest hearing. Children services are a complete joke & Cafcass aren't doing much better. It is no wonder that children finish up like little Baby P. & that the these absolute sociopaths can con all of these so called professionals & who are supposedly trained to "KNOW" these sociopaths have absolutely no idea. My question "WHO REALLY IS LOOKING AFTER THE CHILDREN & providing True & FAIR JUSTICE to the deserving"?
    It certainly is not these so called Judges who are supposed to be completely UNBIASED. They should be totally ashamed of themselves.
    If you knew the whole facts of this
    case, you would like everyone who hears about it, say "THIS COULD NEVER HAPPEN NO ONE COULD GET AWAY WITH WHAT THIS FATHER IS DOING"

  8. It is shameful that the court indulged the mother for so long and we must feel sorry first of all for the father and secondly for the judge whose hands wewe tied - there was nowhere else for this case to go and it is a sorry indictmnent of this country's legal sytem

  9. Nothing stated above says anything that would indicate whether either parent was abusive or loving and righteous. For those of you who can't believe the courts indulged the mother for so long, what makes you think they did and that she was the bad guy? You have no idea of the details. And where was the father when the mother went into the hospital and had an infant at home. We don't know, because it doesn't say. He may have been there. My question is to the judge who, in my opinion, was abusive to the child, does he not know of the concept of SHARED CUSTODY?! It's sad that is a senior justice in the family courts.

  10. I came before the same judge arguing Parental Alienation. In fact all the hallmarks were there. HHJ Bellamy essentially looked the other way. He took the easy route and gave me little contact with my daughter. The alienation is complete in my case - i wont go back in case i get HHJ Bellamy. If another case came along before HHJ Bellamy, what would he do? Nothing, until it was too late. He talks of involving experts sooner. Why didn't he do some thing sooner?


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