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Home > Judgments > 2008 archive

D (Children) [2008] EWHC 1306 (Fam)

Judgment arising from care proceedings given in public by Munby J specifically to praise the professionals involved in the proceedings.

He was minded to give the judgment because

“All too often this experience goes unremarked or recorded in judgments where the local authority is not named. If local authorities which merit criticism are to be named then so too surely should those which deserve praise. If the public interest is a reason for naming the incompetent then surely the very same public interest requires the naming of the competent.”

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Neutral Citation Number: [2008] EWHC 1306 (Fam)

Case No: (omitted)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE DISTRICT REGISTRY

(In Public)

Newcastle Combined Court

The Law Courts

Quayside

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne NE1 2LA

Date: 11 June 2008

Before :

MR JUSTICE MUNBY

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In the matter of the D children

In the matter of the Children Act 1989

 

Between :

DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL (Applicant) 
 
 - and - 
 
 D and others (Respondents)
 

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Judgment

Mr Justice Munby :
1. In Re X (Emergency Protection Orders) [2006] EWHC 510 (Fam), [2006] 2 FLR 701, McFarlane J observed at para [6] that:

“The ordinary experience of the family courts is of social workers and social services departments whose professional work is both valuable and appropriately targeted to meeting the particular needs of children and their families.”

In Re B; X Council v B [2007] EWHC 1622 (Fam), [2008] 1 FLR 482, at para [23], I said I agreed with that view, which accorded entirely with my own experience in the family courts. I remain firmly of this opinion.

2. Moreover, the same, in my experience, goes for all the many other professionals involved in the family justice system. Ordinary experience is that we can expect, and that we regularly receive, dedicated, committed and highly professional assistance from the many social workers, experts, lawyers (both solicitors and barristers) and guardians who toil devotedly, and all too often for inadequate remuneration, in cases which are amongst the most taxing, not merely intellectually but even more so in human and emotional terms, of any which come before our courts.

3. But, as I commented in Re B, 

“too often this experience goes either unremarked or recorded in judgments where the local authority is not named. If local authorities which merit criticism are to be named then so too surely should those which deserve praise. If the public interest is a reason for naming the incompetent then surely the very same public interest requires the naming of the competent. Otherwise the public may have a seriously distorted impression of the family justice system – and that is very certainly not in the public interest.”

That was said specifically in reference to the public identification of local authorities, but the same must surely apply to all the other professionals involved in the family justice system.

4. It is that view which informs this short judgment.

5. I have recently concluded the hearing in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne of some very complex care proceedings – very complex, that is, even by the standards of those complex care cases which are for that reason dealt with in the Family Division rather than in the County Court or the Family Proceedings Court. I propose to say nothing about the proceedings, save to observe that their complexity is illustrated by the unusual circumstance that I had, and appropriately so, the assistance of no fewer than five guardians looking after the interests of the various children who were the subject of the proceedings.

6. My purpose in giving this judgment in public is to bring to the attention of the public generally, and the denizens of Tyneside in particular, some observations I made in a judgment delivered in private which, for good reason, must remain private.

7. I have no wish to embarrass the various professionals I am about to name, for whom the private satisfaction I hope they will have felt on reading my earlier judgment will, no doubt, have been reward enough. But a wider public interest demands that I make public what the private modesty of those involved would doubtless not seek to advertise.

8. What I said then in private, and which I now repeat in public with only slight editorial changes, is this:

“I was blessed – and so was the family – with the largest and most dedicated team of professionals one could ever hope to find. In and out of court I had superb and unstinting assistance not just from all the experts … and from a dedicated and devoted team of social workers from Durham County Council under the exemplary leadership of Mrs Tracie Metcalfe, but also from no fewer than five guardians – Mr Paul Greenhalgh, Mrs Jane Stanley, Ms Janice Deakin, Mrs Sue Cameron and the Official Solicitor – , and no fewer than seven counsel with their instructing solicitors – Miss Gillian Matthews (instructed by Mrs Kelsey Clayton of Durham County Council, legal services), Miss Pauline Moulder (instructed by Mr David Coombe of Gordon Brown Associates), Miss Margaret Sweeting (instructed by Miss Alexandra Owens of Newbys), Miss Rachel Hudson (instructed by Mrs Maggie Crisell of Ben Hoare Bell), Miss Samantha King (instructed by Miss Karin Welsh of Meikles), Mr Kester Armstrong (instructed by Mr David Bradley of Richmond Anderson Goudie) and Mr Frazer McDermott (instructed by Mr Derek Winter of Mortons), together with Ms Clare Routledge of David Gray. No judge, no family involved in the court process, could have wished for more. Tyneside should be proud that it can call upon such a skilled, experienced, dedicated and caring group of professionals.”

9. I am happy, but not surprised, to be able to give this public testimonial.