Rescuing children from significant harm: looking forward with trepidation and hope

This is a guest post written by Allan Norman (@CelticKnotTweet). Allan is a registered social worker and a solicitor at Celtic Knot – Solicitors and Social Workers.

[Update from Lucy : Today judgment in this case was handed down (see press summary). The parents' appeal was dismissed. Some comments which were held back pending judgment have now been published.]

 

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will give judgment In the matter of B (a Child).

It will be less than four months since Lady Hale observed,

It is some indication of the importance of the issues that the apparently simple words [of the legal threshold for the making of a care order for a child] have been considered by the House of Lords and the Supreme Court in no less than six cases… [ J (Children), Re [2013] UKSC 9 (20 February 2013) at paragraph 3]

This will be the seventh. And possibly the most important. The Supreme Court is once again considering when the State can remove children from their families. A number of the earlier cases have dealt with issues around the nature and burden of proof, problems arising from the fact that unlike the criminal courts, we are dealing with protecting from future harm, rather than punishing for past harm. Unquestionably important, but dry.

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Super Supreme

Last week I had a couple of hours to kill. So I went and took a gander at the Supreme Court – and I thought it was fantastic.

Supreme Court Emblem

Supreme Court Emblem

Entering the court was like entering the lobby of a posh hotel – I was greeted by welcoming security staff with a “Good Morning Madam”, and was through security quicker than I get through the arch at my local county court where bags are gone through with a fine toothed comb (in fairness they aren’t equipped with an x-ray machine and there is a lot more of a  9am crush in County!). There was a wealth of public information leaflets, good signposting and helpful Information Point staff. I enquired what courts were sitting and was given a summary sheet telling me about the case in court 2 (Times Newspapers Ltd (Appellant) v Gary Flood (Respondent) – a case about defamation and the qualified privilege defence). I was able to hear an hour or so of the submissions of Richard Rampton QC for the Appellant.

There were a number of members of the public present – some (judging from their dress) were lawyers, but many were tourists. There was no sense of the public being grudgingly allowed to attend or of them being an inconvenience. I was able to slip in part way through the afternoon session, and whilst I was there a number of people slipped silently in, and out, assisted by a friendly security guard on the door. They seemed instinctively to know how to behave, which was just as well because the courtrooms are pretty intimate and so noisy ins and outs, fidgeting or chit chat would be disruptive and distracting.

This was a complex case with submissions that were not easy to pick up and follow mid flow (no doubt in common with most cases in this court), but clearly a lot of thought has gone into making Supreme Court proceedings as accessible as possible from the welcoming first impression and printed materials to the lighting and decor. The public sat and listened, rapt. Continue Reading…