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CL v East Riding Yorkshire Council and Others [2006] EWCA Civ 49

Appeal against findings of fact in care proceedings allowed in part.

CL v East Riding Yorkshire Council and Others [2006] EWCA Civ 49

Court of Appeal: Wall LJ and Coleridge J (7 February 2006)

Appeal against findings of fact in care proceedings allowed in part.

This case was an appeal by the mother of a child born in January 2005 against findings of fact made in September 2005 by the judge in care proceedings.

The local authority had taken care proceedings because of a skull fracture and related injuries suffered by the child when he was seven weeks old. There was no dispute about what the injuries were, or about when they occurred; however, both parents gave unreliable and conflicting accounts of how the injuries had been caused, with the result that it was impossible to determine whether the injuries had been caused accidentally or not. The judge found that the child's injuries amounted to significant harm, and she further found that the child's parents knew that he had suffered serious injuries by reason of the swelling which manifested itself immediately. The judge went on to hold that the child had suffered the injuries whilst in the care of the parents 'and that either the mother or the father or both is responsible for them'; also, that 'whichever parent is responsible for the injuries' the other parent failed to protect the child.

The mother appealed on a number of grounds, principally that the procedure adopted at the trial was manifestly unfair: after the close of evidence, the local authority changed the findings it was seeking against the parents with little or no notice, thereby preventing a fair trial taking place; thus the mother had not known until after submissions had begun that the local authority had changed its position and was seeking findings that (1) the injuries may not be accidental, and (2) the injuries may be caused by her or the father or both.

Held, allowing the appeal in part, that the mother had a legitimate complaint in relation to the judge's findings as to causation and perpetration. Accordingly, the references to the parents' responsibility for the injuries would be removed from the judge's findings of fact, as it would be unfair for the parents, and particularly the mother, to have to go into the assessment phase of the case with those assessing her bound to treat her as the potential perpetrator of the injuries to the child.

Read the full text of the judgment here