Change of Circumstances
The second issue determined by the appeal court was whether a change of mind by a family member about putting themselves forward as a potential carer for the children can, without more, amount to a change of circumstances within the meaning of s24(3) (the court cannot give leave “unless satisfied that there has been a change in circumstances since the order was made”).
Baker, LJ decided that it could, but that this would be unusual. Normally, there will have to be “something more”.
The focus for Judges considering whether there has been a change in circumstances, for the purposes of a s24 leave application should not be on whether the applicant’s circumstances had changed but on “whether there had been a sufficient change in the circumstances which led to the making of the placement order.” This will “open the door” to a consideration of whether leave to apply should be given. This second stage of consideration, at which the child’s welfare is relevant but not paramount, the question for the court is “whether in all the circumstances, including [the applicant]’s prospects of success in securing revocation of the placement order and [the child]’s interests, leave should be given”.
The clarity may not change a great deal in practice. The court will retain a broad discretion as to whether to grant leave in each individual case. As always, it is likely that prompt applicant’s will have better prospects of success than tardy ones. In any event, judges will have “all the circumstances” of the case as evidential resources upon which to base whichever decision they ultimately reach.
The Judgment is a useful read. A helpful list of the principles to be applied by the court considering an application to revoke a placement order is set out at paragraph 14.