Pump Court Chambers

Successfully appealing a well-reasoned interim order

Blog 3rd August 2015

The recent Court of Appeal case of Re B (a child) (2015) is a reminder of the difficultly in successfully appealing a well-reasoned interim order.

In this case the appellant father appealed against an order that his six-year-old son (B) should return to live with the respondent mother pending an investigation into B’s allegations. B’s parents had separated and B remained living with his mother with his half-brother and cousin. He had substantial contact with his father. In May 2015, when B was staying with his father, he made allegations that his mother would hit him with a belt, that his brother twisted his arm and that his cousin pushed him. B confirmed the allegations to police and social services. The father was advised not to return B to his mother or allow contact. The mother sought a child arrangements order and the father made an application to preserve the status quo pending a full hearing. The judge had a s.47 report and a letter from B’s headmaster but heard no oral evidence. He held that B should return to his mother pending a full investigation.

The father submitted that the judge should not have decided the issue on the day on the evidence before him.

It was held that the judge had in mind all the relevant factors and understood the background to the case. He adopted the correct approach. It was impossible to see how the judge would have been in any better position to judge the issue if the case had been adjourned. The headmaster’s letter gave a positive picture of B and his family and was a valuable source of insight for the judge. The judge also quoted from the s.47 report. The process of uprooting B from his mother, his home and his school was plainly not in B’s interests. B’s allegations were worrying and the judge had to decide whether it was an acceptable risk to return B to the mother in the light of the positive indicators. His judgment was clear on the factors he had in mind and the weight he gave to them. The judge was entitled to make that decision and his approach was impeccable. It was difficult to establish a successful appeal against interim orders to enable the Court of Appeal to interfere as it was essentially a matter for the judge who had seen the evidence and had a feel for the case, J (A Minor), Re [1989] 2 F.L.R. 304 followed.

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