Case of P-S (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1407

Successful appeal of final care orders made instead of SGOs. Considering SGOs being made before a trial placement, status of extra judicial guidance and the role of Special Guardians in the court process.  

The Court of Appeal has handed down a significant decision regarding the making of final care orders instead of special guardianship orders, and the status of non-statutory guidance and when it should be followed.

Our Hannah Perry acted for the children, through their Guardian Jeff Boyd in the case at the first instance and on instructions of the children’s guardian successfully appealed the decision of HHJ Tolson QC to make final care orders.

The leading judgment was given by Sir Ernest Ryder. He allowed the appeal and was clear that the judge at first instance was influenced by informal guidance given by a High Court judge in his role as a leadership judge.  The Court of Appeal make it clear that such guidance is not the same as authoritative guidance or a practice direction for the reasons set out in the judgment.

The judgment reiterates that the 26 week time limit for care proceedings may be extended if the court considers that the extension is necessary to enable the court to resolve the proceedings justly; and  the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby P refers to previous judgments which have confirmed that the timetable should be extended when there is good reason to do so. As the President says: ‘In relation to SGOs, as elsewhere, justice must never be sacrificed upon the altar of speed’.

Both Sir Ernest Ryder and Sir James Munby P were clear that there needs to be authoritative guidance about the making of special guardianship orders, and they invite the multi-disciplinary Family Justice Council to provide this guidance. 

Due to the significance of the issues the Association of Lawyers for Children, “the ALC”, intervened in the appeal.

The Judgment can be found here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2018/1407.html