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The Supreme Court allows mother’s appeal in S-B (Children)

The Supreme Court has revisited the issue of standard of proof in fact finding hearings concerning alleged harm to children.

The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal of a mother against a finding that she had been a possible perpetrator of harm to her eldest child which subsequently led to the removal of her second child.

The facts of the case are set out in the judgment. Before the Supreme Court the principal issue was whether the judge had directed herself correctly in finding that the threshold criteria relating to the second child had been reached on the basis that the mother had been a possible perpetrator of harm to the eldest child, although in the trial judge’s words she had only been 40% likely to have been a perpetrator whereas her partner at the time was 60% likely to have been responsible.

The court's judgment, delivered by Lady Hale, traced the development of the law concerning the standard of proof and the correct approach to its application as to both the harm caused and identification of perpetrators. She reiterated her own observations and those of Lord Hoffman in Re B (Children) [2008] UKHL 35 ‘that the same approach is to be applied to the identification of perpetrators as to any other factual issue in the case.’

The judgment is reproduced here.