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Supreme Court to deliver judgment on ‘significant harm’ and proportionality of response

Judgment in B (A Child) to be given on 12th June

The Supreme Court will deliver judgment in B (A Child) on Wednesday, 12th June. The Court comprised Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Lady Hale of Richmond, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony and Lord Wilson.

The appeal was heard on the 25th and 26th February.

The case concerns whether a child of two years of age should be permanently removed from her parents and placed for adoption. In that regard, whether the child was likely to suffer significant harm within the meaning of s.31(2)(a) of the Children Act 1989, and whether her permanent removal was a proportionate response to any such risk that she did face.

'A', a girl now aged two years old, was removed from her parents at birth. The first Respondent subsequently applied for a care order permanently to separate her from her parents and to have her placed for adoption. The grounds on which the order was sought were principally that her mother ('M') suffered from a psychiatric condition that led her to seek unnecessary medical treatment; that both her parents exhibited a dishonest approach when interacting with care personnel and other professionals; and that it was not appropriate for her father ('F') to care for her of his own accord. It was asserted that A was at risk of harm in terms of her emotional and social development and also due to the risk she would be presented for unnecessary medical treatment or adopt M's behaviour in doing so. The Family Division of the High Court granted the care order. Both parents appealed that order on the grounds they did not present a risk of significant harm to A, and that in any event her permanent removal and placement for adoption was disproportionate to any risk that they did present. The Court of Appeal upheld the care order, and the parents now appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal judgment can be found here.