M v GP & AK (Grandparents) and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Justice Ryder,Lord Justice Vos,Lord Justice Tomlinson
Judgment Date15 July 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] EWCA Civ 942
Docket NumberCase No: B4/2013/2674 & 2771
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Date15 July 2014

[2014] EWCA Civ 942



HHJ Yelton


Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL


Lord Justice Tomlinson

Lord Justice Ryder


Lord Justice Vos

Case No: B4/2013/2674 & 2771

GP & AK (Grandparents)


Suffolk County Council

Ms Kate Brannigan QC and Ms Grainne Mellon (instructed by Powells Law) for the Mother

Ms Tina Cook QC (instructed by Suffolk County Council Legal Department) for the Local Authority

Ms Christine Hayes (Instructed by the Children's Guardian) for the Children

The Grandparents appeared in person

Hearing date: 22 May 2014

Lord Justice Ryder

This is the appeal of a mother and her mother and step father who I shall call the 'maternal grandparents', against care and placement orders made by His Honour Judge Yelton in the Ipswich County Court sitting at Cambridge on 30 August 2013. The children concerned are now aged 3 and 2. Permission to appeal was granted by Black LJ at an oral hearing on 27 February 2014 reported as In the Matter of F (Children) and D-F (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 439. I gratefully adopt the description of the history which my Lady sets out at paragraphs [1] to [8] of that judgment. The appeal was limited to one ground which can be summarised as whether the grandparents are able to provide the children with a permanent home. The appeals were heard on 22 May 2014 and were dismissed with reasons to follow.


The local authority, Suffolk County Council, issued care proceedings on 27 July 2012 because of their concerns about the mental health of the children's mother and domestic violence between the parents. Father had been convicted of assaulting the mother and there was an outstanding allegation of rape made by mother against him. In that context on 29 July 2012 mother travelled to the Republic of Ireland and placed her children in voluntary foster care. The local authority in this jurisdiction arranged for a missing persons alert to be issued in respect of the children. Mother worked with Irish social services, completing six sessions of a parenting assessment with a social worker from Cavan Social Services. Her contact with the children in Ireland was by and large positive. At that stage, she wanted to remain in Ireland with the children.


The children returned to this jurisdiction in November 2012 and were placed in foster care. The mother returned shortly after. Father was convicted of rape and sexual assault against the mother after a criminal trial during which mother gave evidence against him. I should record that the father has been able to participate in these proceedings by a video link from prison but he has not added anything of substance to the appeal.


Within the care proceedings in England and Wales interim care orders were made by a district judge on 9 August 2012 and were continued by a circuit judge until the matter was transferred to the High Court to consider jurisdiction. On 9 October 2012 Parker J made findings of fact that the proceedings had been commenced on 27 July 2013, that the Ipswich court was seized of the proceedings and that the children were habitually resident in England and Wales. A case management conference was held on 29 November 2012 before the same judge who gave case management directions relating to evidence and assessment. None of those findings or orders were appealed at the time. At that hearing Parker J identified the issue in relation to the grandparents as their "ability to cope with these children during the whole of their minority, bearing in mind their relationship with each of the parents".


In November 2012 the maternal grandparents were positively assessed as potential foster carers for the children. They were subsequently recommended for approval as family and friends foster carers for the children by a local authority foster panel which met on 28 January 2013. They made an application for a special guardianship order on 4 February 2013 and were joined as parties to the proceedings on 6 February 2013 when the court was told that they had been approved as foster carers. No interim application was made at any time for the children to be placed with them during the proceedings and no-one actively pursued a placement with the grandparents under a care order with a view to a special guardianship order over time.


The final hearing took place over 5 days in August 2013 before Judge Yelton after having been delayed from May. There had been no judicial continuity during case management with the regrettable consequence that the only issue identification that had taken place was that undertaken by Parker J. Judge Yelton had not previously been the allocated judge. The court heard evidence from the social worker for the children, the social worker for the parents (who undertook the special guardianship report on the grandparents), the author of the fostering report on the maternal grandparents, the mother, the maternal grandparents and the guardian.


The mother's grounds of appeal included three detailed complaints about the determination made by the judge which have not been pursued before this court because permission to appeal was not given. It is important to understand the context of the mother's case. She asserted that the case management decisions, that is the orders that were not appealed at the time they were made, were wrong and that she should have been permitted to instruct and place reliance on an expert psychiatrist or psychologist. She also asserted that the judge had wrongly relied upon her mental health history as being indicative of her future behaviour thereby giving too much weight to that risk and too little weight to the mother's own evidence about herself and risk. Finally, she asserted that it was impermissible for the judge to go beyond facts that had been agreed for the purpose of the satisfaction of the threshold in section 31 of the Children Act 1989 in making his own findings and value judgments at the conclusion of the hearing.


None of these complaints had sufficient merit to lead to permission. Indeed I would go further, the detail of the mother's history is stark and very worrying. Although it can be said that there was a sea change in her life by July 2012, that would have to have been sustained and tested and be capable of continuous supervision for a court to conclude that it would have been safe for any child to be cared for by her. That broad context is important because in the county court and arguably even in this court until permission was refused, the mother's case was regarded by the parents and the grandparents as the primary case with the grandparents taking second place to the mother's case on the basis that she was immediately capable of caring for her children. The grandparents were the reserve option.


The mother's fourth ground of appeal which is also the grandparents' ground of appeal is put in a different way. It is that the judge did not analyse the risk to the children if they were to be placed with the grandparents, in particular whether the risk that the mother posed might be managed or ameliorated by the capabilities of the grandparents, the mother's own attitude to that risk and the effectiveness of any therapy that the mother might obtain in the...

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3 cases
  • Re The D Children
    • United Kingdom
    • Family Division
    • 8 October 2015
    ...the start of her judgment. However, I remind myself of the decisions of the Court of Appeal in M, GP and AK v Suffolk County Council [2014] EWCA Civ 942 and Re R [2014] EWCA Civ 1625. In the former, the judge at first instance had placed significant weight on the assessment of the social wo......
  • DF v N B-F
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 6 August 2015
    ...that this court should look to the substance rather than the form of that analysis in the manner accepted by this court in M v GP and AK and Suffolk County Council [2014] EWCA Civ 942 at [19] to [20]. 34 For the avoidance of doubt the most recent amendments to the CA 1989 were not in force ......
  • KH v A County Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 20 December 2019
    ...and addressed them in a holistic way. In support of that proposition, Mr Horne cited the decision of this court in M v GP and others [2014] EWCA Civ 942. In this case, it was clear from the judgment that the recorder had fully considered the core aspects of the 25 In a skeleton argument fi......

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