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‘Related’ Matters in an Open Records Region: Relinquishment, Contact and Best Interests

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Abstract

If a basic right to genetic relatedness is eventually found to exist amongst and emerge from the various strands of jurisprudence that together comprise the ‘law’ of blood-ties, then access to knowable biological truths is only one aspect of this right.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Webster (The Parents) v Norfolk County Council & Ors (Rev 1) [2009] EWCA Civ 59 (11 February 2009) per Wall LJ at para 2.

  2. 2.

    Anayo v Germany [2010] ECHR 2083 (21 December 2010).

  3. 3.

    See The Adoption Act 1976 (England and Wales), The Adoption (NI) Order 1987, The Adoption and Children Act 2002 (England and Wales and partially applicable to Northern Ireland e.g. in respect of amending the welfare checklist); The Children Act 1989, The Children (NI) Order 1995; The Adoption and Children Scotland Act 2007, and The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. See also however R v Registrar-General ex p Smith [1991] 2 QB 393 where an incarcerated adoptee attacked his cell-mate in the belief that he was his birth mother; he was subsequently denied access to his birth certificate.

  4. 4.

    See further Appell (2010), p. 1, on the equivocal nature of pre-hearing agreements on post-adoption contact arrangements.

  5. 5.

    Per Hale LJ in Re C and B (Children) (Care Order: Future Harm) [2001] 1 FLR 611.

  6. 6.

    At the time of writing, in England and Wales the Placement Order is used to enable the adoption process; in Northern Ireland the older, but not entirely dissimilar, Freeing Order system is still in use, whilst in Scotland, the Permanence Order is used. In terms of dispensing with parental consent (to adoption) the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration. See S v L [2012] UKSC 30 (11 July 2012).

  7. 7.

    In Re B (A Child) [2009] UKSC 5 para 37 per Lord Kerr.

  8. 8.

    See Smith (2002), pp. 281–302; Bojorge (2002), pp. 266–291.

  9. 9.

    See for example the Irish Supreme Court decision in N v Health Service Executive & Ors [2006] IESC 60 (the ‘Baby Anne’ case, examined in more detail in the following chapter) saw the return of a relinquished, placed-with-prospective adopters child to her birth parents after several years spent in the care of her psychological parents, not on the basis of welfare paramountcy rights, the best interests principle, her attachments to them or her Article 8 ECHR right to family life, but because of the State’s obligation to protect the Constitutional rights of the original (subsequently married) parents. See further however on the recent referendum (10 November 2012) on children’s rights, which has amended Article 42.5 of The Irish Constitution http://www.childrensrights.ie/campaign/childrens-rights-and-constitutional-reform (accessed 30.03.13).

  10. 10.

    See further Fair (2008), p. 1039.

  11. 11.

    See for example The Norgrove Report (Family Justice Review) (November 2011) available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/moj/2011/family-justice-review-final-report.pdf (accessed 22.02.13) and The Munro Review of Child Protection (May 2011) available at http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8062/8062.pdf (accessed 22.02.13).

  12. 12.

    Fair (2008), p. 1039.

  13. 13.

    Webster op cit n 1. The child, suffering from scurvy, was thought to have been deliberately neglected having been fed only soya milk as an infant. It later emerged that this had probably been due to a digestive disorder, and that the parents had acted on the advice of the family’s GP. The fractures which the child had sustained had probably also occurred as a result of his condition, rather than through deliberate physical abuse. See also Herring (2009). Available http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/family-revoking-adoptions. Accessed 10.08.11.

  14. 14.

    Ibid at para 3.

  15. 15.

    Ibid at para 7.

  16. 16.

    Freeing Orders were made under the since-repealed Adoption Act 1976; Placement Orders (and Special Guardianship Orders) were introduced by the 2002 Act, enacted 2005. The youngest child was born in the neighboring jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland, his parents having fled there before his birth to avoid his being taken into local authority care. Following a satisfactory period of residential assessment, the local authority decided to stay Care Order proceedings and allowed this child to remain in the care of his parents.

  17. 17.

    The new reports suggested that the injuries were more likely to be due to scurvy and iron deficiency anaemia than deliberate parental abuse.

  18. 18.

    Webster op cit n 1 para 65.

  19. 19.

    See Ladd v Marshall [1954] 1 WLR 1489 on the rules of admissibility of fresh evidence in respect of re-hearings (per Denning LJ at 1491). See also however the dicta of Waite LJ in Re S (Discharge of Care Order) [1995] 2 FLR 639 at 646 which highlighted, ‘the willingness of the family jurisdiction to relax (at the appellate stage) the constraints of Ladd v Marshall upon the admission of new evidence, does not originate from laxity or benevolence but from recognition that where children are concerned there is liable to be an infinite variety of circumstances whose proper consideration in the best interests of the child is not to be trammelled by the arbitrary imposition of procedural rules. ..the family courts (including the Court of Appeal when it is dealing with applications in the family jurisdiction) will be every bit as alert as courts in other jurisdictions to see to it that no one is allowed to litigate afresh issues that have already been determined.’

  20. 20.

    Webster op cit n 1 para 63.

  21. 21.

    The Guardian’s role is to ‘provide a voice’ for the child and safeguard their interests in legal proceedings involve Care or Adoption Orders. See for example http://www.nigala.hscni.net/ (accessed 12.03.13).

  22. 22.

    Webster op cit n 1 para 86.

  23. 23.

    Ibid para 89.

  24. 24.

    Ibid para 140.

  25. 25.

    Ibid para 141.

  26. 26.

    Ibid para 145 See section 67(1) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

  27. 27.

    Re B (Adoption: Jurisdiction to set aside) [1995] Fam 239.

  28. 28.

    Ibid at para 245C.

  29. 29.

    Ibid at para 252 E-F.

  30. 30.

    Re M (Minors) (Adoption) [1991] 1 FLR 458.

  31. 31.

    Ibid at 459 F-G per Glidewell LJ.

  32. 32.

    Ibid per Butler-Sloss LJ at 460B.

  33. 33.

    See Re F (R) (An Infant) (1970) 1 QB 385; see also Re RA (Minors) (1974) 4 Fam Law 182.

  34. 34.

    See Re F (Infants) (Adoption Order: Validity) [1977] Fam 165 where the Adoption Orders were deemed valid (if theoretically voidable) as a result of the adopters not being legally married at the time of the hearing.

  35. 35.

    Webster op cit n 1 para 162 per Wall LJ. The Court distinguished the case of Re K (Non-accidental injuries: Perpetrator: New Evidence) [2004] EWCA Civ 1181, [2005] 1 FLR 285 on the basis that the adoption hearing had not yet been held.

  36. 36.

    Re K (Adoption and Wardship) [1997] 2 FLR 221.

  37. 37.

    Ibid at 228H per Butler-Sloss LJ.

  38. 38.

    Webster op cit n 1 para 187.

  39. 39.

    Ibid para 175.

  40. 40.

    Ibid para 194.

  41. 41.

    Ibid para 204 per Wilson LJ.

  42. 42.

    Ibid para 205. Criminal proceedings were not brought against the parents.

  43. 43.

    Arguably, solicitors acting for non-consenting parents might also perhaps be required to demand extra evidence in such cases, to avoid negligence proceedings.

  44. 44.

    Webster op cit n 1 at para 84.

  45. 45.

    Ibid para 84.

  46. 46.

    See further Bainham (2007), pp. 520–523.

  47. 47.

    The court must first consider the issues under s 31(3) (c) (as to whether the where the parent is and is likely to remain unable satisfactorily to discharge their parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child) before looking at s 31 (3) (d) which provides for situations where a parent is and is likely to remain unable satisfactorily to discharge their parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child.

  48. 48.

    S v L [2012] UKSC 30 (11 July 2012).

  49. 49.

    Neulinger v Sweden (2010) 54 EHRR 1087.

  50. 50.

    R and H v United Kingdom (2011) 54 EHRR 28; This was further confirmed in Uyanik v Turkey 3 May 2012) (app 60328/09) available at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-110705 (accessed 15.03.13).

  51. 51.

    S v L [2012] op cit n 47 para 40. Y C v United Kingdom (App 4547/10) which drew upon previous tests for Convention-compatibility (in Johansen v Norway, Neulinger v Sweden and R and H v UK) re-framing them instead as ‘considerations’ to be kept in mind. See further McFadden and Thomson (2012), 17, available at http://www.journalonline.co.uk/Magazine/57-9/1011624.aspx#.UV59WKLZHCY (accessed 12.03.13).

  52. 52.

    Ibid para 44.

  53. 53.

    See for example Re NI and NS [2001] NIFam 7 (24 March 2001). Contact seemed until fairly recently to generally be restricted to an indirect form (such as ‘letter-box’ contact) or only permitted a few times a year, subject to birth kin not behaving in a way that might be disruptive to the placement. See also Re EFB [2009] NIFam 7.

  54. 54.

    Re A [2001] NIFam 23 per Gillen LJ.

  55. 55.

    See for example Re T (A Minor) [1998] EWCA Civ 1871 (27 November 1998).

  56. 56.

    See Re W (An Infant) [1971] 2 All ER 49 wherein Lord Hailsham had declared that ‘welfare per se is not the test’ in relation to the granting of Freeing Orders; only a finding of parental ‘unreasonableness and nothing else’ ought to be considered, given that the key judicial issue ‘is not culpability. It is not indifference. It is not failure to discharge parental duties. It is reasonableness and reasonableness in the context of the totality of the circumstances.’ Arguably, the phrase ‘totality of the circumstances’ could have elevated the best interests principle to the level of primary consideration. See also Re F (Adoption: Freeing Order) 2000 2 FLR 505.

  57. 57.

    The Order is based upon the English Adoption Act 1976, which was itself inspired by The 1972 Houghton Report. Under Article 16(2) (b) of the Northern Ireland Order, birth parents must be deemed to be ‘withholding..agreement unreasonably’ for the Freeing Order to be made.

  58. 58.

    See Article 3 of The Children (NI) Order 1995. The Adoption Order 1987 Article 9 also states that, ‘in deciding any course of action in relation to the adoption of a child, a court or adoption agency shall regard the welfare of the child as the most important consideration.’ See also the expanded adoption welfare checklist s.1 Adoption and Children Act 2002.

  59. 59.

    See Article 50 of The Children (NI) Order 1995.

  60. 60.

    See Re D (Simultaneous Applications For Care And Freeing Order) [1999] 2 FLR 49.

  61. 61.

    Per Gillen J in Re A [2001] NIFam 23 (24 October 2001) at p. 8.

  62. 62.

    Re H [1981] 3 FLR 386.

  63. 63.

    See The Human Rights Act 1998 (in force from October 2000).

  64. 64.

    Craigavon and Banbridge Community Health and Social Services Trust v JKF, In. The Matter Of [2000] NIFam 56 (27 November 2000).

  65. 65.

    Citing Daniels v Walker (2000) 1 WLR 1382 at p. 1387.

  66. 66.

    See further Kilkelly (1999), p. 298.

  67. 67.

    DHSS Departmental Guidance (1999) at para 2.1.

  68. 68.

    Re A [2001] NIFam 23.

  69. 69.

    Ibid Per Gillen J.

  70. 70.

    Ibid.

  71. 71.

    Re F [2000] 2 FLR 505.

  72. 72.

    Ibid.

  73. 73.

    Re K [2002] NIFam 13.

  74. 74.

    Ibid at p. 10.

  75. 75.

    Ibid Per Gillen J.

  76. 76.

    Ibid.

  77. 77.

    Re J and S (2001) NIFam 13 (23 May 2001) This also was a factor in the birth mother’s refusal to provide consent to relinquishment in Re CBCHSST v JKF [2000] NI Fam 76.

  78. 78.

    Per Gillen J in Re CBCHSST v JKF op cit n 64.

  79. 79.

    Ibid para 78.

  80. 80.

    Re NI and NS [2001] NIFam 7 (24 March 2001) per Gillen J.

  81. 81.

    Re B-M (a child) (Adoption:Parental Agreement) 2001 1 ACR 1.

  82. 82.

    Re P, (Freeing Without Consent) [2004] NIFam 6 (11 February 2004).

  83. 83.

    Re E and M [2001] NIFam 2 (02 February 2001).

  84. 84.

    Ibid per Higgins J at pp. 23–25.

  85. 85.

    Ibid.

  86. 86.

    The Court referred back to the subsequently repealed Adoption Act 1967, which did contain a ‘paramountcy’ test, noting that this had been omitted from the 1987 legislation. See section 5(1) of the Adoption Act 1967 where the ‘welfare of the infant shall be the paramount consideration’.

  87. 87.

    Re C (Freeing for Adoption) [2002] NIFam 1 (12 January 2002).

  88. 88.

    Per Gillen J in Re J (Freeing without consent) [2002] NIFam 8 (13 March 2002).

  89. 89.

    Down Lisburn Health and Social Services Trust v H [2006] UKHL 36.

  90. 90.

    Ibid para 24 per Baroness Hale.

  91. 91.

    Ibid para 36. The current legislation was drafted in the wake of The Houghton Report (1972) CMND 5107 HMSO which seemed to suggest that ‘permanency’ equated either to the rehabilitative reunion with birth kin or to a complete severance from them, in a bid to achieve some form of security for the new ‘family for life’.

  92. 92.

    Op cit n 89 per Baroness Hale LJ, para 6.

  93. 93.

    Ibid para 7.

  94. 94.

    Ibid para 8.

  95. 95.

    Ibid para 13–14. The fact that contact-tolerant adopters had not yet been found was also potentially in breach of the Policy Guidance (DHSS) (1999) para 6.9 which recommended that prospective adopters should be found and approved of by Trusts before the final Care Order hearing. This would help to avoid delays and serve to connect the central issues of Care and Adoption.

  96. 96.

    Ibid para 16.

  97. 97.

    Ibid para 23.

  98. 98.

    Re W [1971] AC 682. This was followed in Re D [1977] AC 602 and withstood the challenge posed to it by the case of Re C [1993] 2 FLR 260.

  99. 99.

    Op cit n 89 para 32.

  100. 100.

    Ibid para 37.

  101. 101.

    Ibid Per Baroness Hale LJ para 25.

  102. 102.

    Ibid para 34, noting that adoption law in Northern Ireland seemed perhaps to operate outside the spirit of the European Convention.

  103. 103.

    Ibid para 40.

  104. 104.

    A Trust v M & P [2007] NIFam 5.

  105. 105.

    Ibid para 21.

  106. 106.

    Ibid para 18.

  107. 107.

    Re L2 and O (Post-Adoption Contact) [2007] NI Fam 12.

  108. 108.

    Ibid para 7.

  109. 109.

    See for example the breaches of Articles 3, 6 and 8 ECHR that occurred in recently in A & S (Children) v Lancashire County Council [2012] EWHC 1689 (Fam) (21 June 2012).

  110. 110.

    South Eastern Health and Social Services Trust v LS [2008] NI Fam 12 (27 October 2008).

  111. 111.

    Ibid para 23 per Weir J.

  112. 112.

    Re EFB [2009]NIFam 7.

  113. 113.

    Ibid para 13 per Stephens J.

  114. 114.

    Ibid para 49.

  115. 115.

    Ibid para 48.

  116. 116.

    Ibid para 12.

  117. 117.

    Per Gillen J in Re CBCHSST v JKF, In The Matter of [2000] NIFam 76.

  118. 118.

    Re J (Care Order) [2008] NIFam 11 (1 August 2008).

  119. 119.

    Ibid para 54.

  120. 120.

    Ibid para 61. See also para 65, per Gillen J, where he asks ‘How then could the Ms possibly comply with a protection plan which restricts contact and requires collaborative working with the Trust in circumstances where they might have to align themselves against O and F.?’ (the birth parents).

  121. 121.

    Ibid para 27.

  122. 122.

    Ibid para 46.

  123. 123.

    Ibid.

  124. 124.

    Ibid para 94.

  125. 125.

    Re JJ [2009] NIFam 2.

  126. 126.

    Ibid para 15 per Morgan LJ.

  127. 127.

    Ibid.

  128. 128.

    Ibid para 24.

  129. 129.

    SEHSST v LS [2009] NI Fam 14.

  130. 130.

    Ibid per Weir J [at para 21citing Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead In Re G (Children) (FC) [2006] UKHL 43].

  131. 131.

    Ibid at para 2.

  132. 132.

    Re EFB op cit at n 112.

  133. 133.

    Ibid.

  134. 134.

    Re EFB op cit n 112 para 36 per Stephens J.

  135. 135.

    Ibid.

  136. 136.

    Ibid.

  137. 137.

    Article 6 of the ECHR protects the right to ‘fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.’ Available (see the Schedule to the Human Rights Act 1998) http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts1998/ukpga_19980042_en_3. Accessed 20.10.09. See also Policy Document (2010) http://www.baaf.org.uk/webfm_send/2565 (2010) (accessed 31.10.11) and the (2006) Consultation Document on the need for legislative reform in Northern Ireland http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/adopting-the-future-consultation-report-final-2.pdf (accessed 10.11.11).

  138. 138.

    Whether such meetings might to some extent warrant an increased formalization (to ensure for example the availability of right of appeal or judicial oversight if either set of parents subsequently change their mind on the issue of contact) is perhaps a question that requires more empirical research into the various processes currently used by Social Services Trusts. In respect of how pre-proceedings meetings are currently conducted in England see the recent evidence of Masson (2013) to the Education Committee Children first: The Child Protection System in England. Available http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmeduc/137/137vw79.htm (accessed 28.02.13).

  139. 139.

    S. 52 (1) (b) The Adoption and Children Act 2002.

  140. 140.

    Re K (Care Proceedings: Care Plan) [2007] EWHC 393 (Fam).

  141. 141.

    Bridge (2008), 114.

  142. 142.

    SB v A County Council; Re P[2008] EWCA Civ 535.

  143. 143.

    Ibid para 154 per Wall LJ.

  144. 144.

    Ibid para 153.

  145. 145.

    K (Children) v Sheffield City Council [2011] EWCA Civ 635 (25 May 2011).

  146. 146.

    Ibid para 43.

  147. 147.

    Ibid para 53.

  148. 148.

    H (Children), Re [2012] EWCA Civ 743 (16 May 2012).

  149. 149.

    Ibid para 17.

  150. 150.

    Ibid.

  151. 151.

    Para 27. See further Re B (a child) (residence order) [2010] 1 All ER 223 where the Supreme Court declared that framing issues in terms of the right to be brought up by a biological parent rather than in terms of the best interests of the child served to alter the focus away from the child’s welfare in decisions on residence.

  152. 152.

    K (Children), Re [2011] EWCA Civ 1064 (20 July 2011).

  153. 153.

    Ibid para 35.

  154. 154.

    Ibid para 14, Citing Mumby LJ in Re C (a child) [2011] EWCA Civ 521 (at para 47).

  155. 155.

    Ibid para 35.

  156. 156.

    Coventry City Council v PGO & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 729 [2011] All ER (D) 159 (available at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/729.html accessed 11.03.13).

  157. 157.

    Ibid para 48.

  158. 158.

    Ibid para 52.

  159. 159.

    Ibid para 53 per Wilson J.

  160. 160.

    Ibid.

  161. 161.

    Q (A Child) [2011] EWCA Civ 1610 (21 December 2011).

  162. 162.

    Ibid para 57.

  163. 163.

    Johansen v Norway (1996) 23 EHRR 33 and Re C and B (Care Order: Future Harm) [2001] 1 FLR 611 were argued in support of this point.

  164. 164.

    Ibid para 58 (citing Re P (Placement Orders: Parental Consent)[2008] EWCA Civ 535, [2008] 2 FLR 625, paras 118–127).

  165. 165.

    Ibid ‘We do not understand what Arden LJ said in C (A Child) v XYZ County Council and EC [2007] EWCA Civ 1206, para [40], as qualifying any of this well-established learning.’

  166. 166.

    Ibid para 60.

  167. 167.

    Ibid para 61.

  168. 168.

    Ibid para 66.

  169. 169.

    Ibid paras 29 and 30.

  170. 170.

    Ibid.

  171. 171.

    A & S (Children) v Lancashire County Council [2012] EWHC 1689 (Fam) (21 June 2012).

  172. 172.

    See The Children Act 1989 s 34(1) and Schedule 2, para 15 (1).

  173. 173.

    Ibid para 11.

  174. 174.

    Ibid para 9.

  175. 175.

    Ibid see paras 119–121.

  176. 176.

    Ibid para 128.

  177. 177.

    Ibid para 130.

  178. 178.

    Ibid para 150. Had one of the boys not independently sought out legal advice, it is possible that the situation would simply never have been discovered or addressed. Para 154.

  179. 179.

    Langdale and Weston (2008), pp. 769–772 at p. 769.

  180. 180.

    S Mahmood (2004), pp. 449–452.

  181. 181.

    Ross (2001).

  182. 182.

    Thomas et al. (1999).

  183. 183.

    Gilmore (2008), pp. 285–310 at p. 285.

  184. 184.

    Ibid p 300. Gilmore seems to argue that contact ought not to be regarded as a right, but instead merits some level of legal ‘respect’ as an element of family life; this might avoid any judicial obligation to assume that it is beneficial.

  185. 185.

    Humphrys (2003), p. 237.

  186. 186.

    Cullen (2005), pp. 475–486 at p. 484.

  187. 187.

    Calder and Hackett (2003).

  188. 188.

    Cullen (2005). That said, where a child has suffered harm at the hands of their original family, this argument is difficult to justify. See further Re P (A Child) [2008] EWCA Civ 535 per Wall J; Re R (Adoption: Contact) [2005] EWCA Civ 1128 at para 49; Re T (Adopted Children: Contact) [1995] 2 FLR 251 on the ‘dual planning’ approach to adoption placement hearings, and the onus now placed upon adoption agencies to select contact-tolerant prospective adopters.

  189. 189.

    Talbot and Kidd (2004).

  190. 190.

    Bailey-Harris (2001), p. 361.

  191. 191.

    Ibid.

  192. 192.

    See further Kelly and McSherry (2003); Kelly and McSherry (2002), pp. 297–309; ‘Adopting the Future’ Consultation Report Responses (2006) DHSSPS available at http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/adopting-the-future-consultation-report-final-2.pdf (accessed 05.10.11).

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Diver, A. (2014). ‘Related’ Matters in an Open Records Region: Relinquishment, Contact and Best Interests. In: A Law of Blood-ties - The 'Right' to Access Genetic Ancestry. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-01071-7_7

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