Adopting the 'poignant descriptive words' of Munby J (as he then was) in Re D (Intractable Contact Dispute: Publicity)  1 FLR 1226, His Honour Judge Clifford Bellamy began his judgment in Warwickshire County Council v TE & Ors  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  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)  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)  EWHC B2).
9. S appealed against this decision and on 17th March his appeal was allowed – Re S (A Child)  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'.